[diggers350] Re: Scottish Land Rights and the MST

Banner Heather bannerheather at clara.net
Wed Jun 30 03:01:32 BST 1999

You're a star, Tony, best thing I've received in my inbox since Mobseys
invite to Wales-Cheers, love and hugs
Banners-oh, p.s., got a new thing happening.......

Please circulate as widely as possible, add link to website, or publish in
as many places as you can, thankyou.
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-----Original Message-----
From: Tony Gosling <tony at gaia.org>
To: diggers350 at egroups.com <diggers350 at egroups.com>
Date: Wednesday, June 30, 1999 2:45 AM
Subject: [diggers350] Scottish Land Rights and the MST

>Dear tolerant ones,
>Sorry for accidentally posting that (embarrassing) message to Zoe earlier.
>Hope this refreshing blast from North of the border makes up for it.
>General tlio swing of things seems to be:
>Saturday 3rd June: Core group meeting 12 noon Oxford office
>Wednesday 7th July: Kett meeting point announced
>Sunday 11th July: Kett... The Rebels Return to Norwich
>Monday 2nd August: Next tlio newsletter out - make sure you're on the
>mailing list
>Office 01865 722016
>Mobile 0961 460171
>Web: www.oneworld.org/tlio/
>ps. Can't get that new number one out of my head...  'I thought music was
>dead!' - (Glaswegians Bis)
>A leviathan awakes?
>Angus Calder & Alasdair Gray's home rule handbook Part Three:
>ALASDAIR GRAY : The Scottish people grow particularly warm in argument
>concerning the land and its ownership. We understand from the Secretary of
>State that 85 organisations and individuals submitted responses to one
>document produced by the Land Policy Research Group, which made its
>recommendations at the start of this year.
>ANGUS CALDER : Perhaps we should be concerned that the number of responses
>was so small, since we all live on the land (now that lighthouses have been
>fully automated) and a large proportion of us own properties on it, subject
>to keeping our mortgage payments up to date. However, "land" as a term in
>political debate usually seems to mean "rural land, especially in the
>Highlands". Only a small proportion of Scots live in the Highlands but we
>tend to believe that our true identity as Scots derives from those windy,
>wet, remote, infertile but, to many, perversely attractive landscapes.
>There is a widespread belief that Highland chiefs in the 18th and 19th
>centuries effectually stole land which properly belonged to all the folk
>who dwelt on it, the whole clan. They then extruded people and in their
>place introduced sheep for profit and deer for sport. Finally, their
>inheritors peans who compounded the original theft by controlling the land
>as absentees. Just as wildlife protection groups take no interest in those
>resourceful and successful creatures, urban seagulls and pigeons and urban
>rats and foxes, so land ownership is rarely discussed as an issue affecting
>the urban areas where the great majority of Scots live.
>AG : I observe that you are set upon provocation. Was it not admirable
>that, in 1993 and 1997 respectively, the crofters of Assynt and the
>islanders of Eigg, with heartfelt support from many Scots elsewhere, were
>able to purchase the estates on which they live?
>AC : Yes, but they are not clanspersons of the clans from which the land is
>supposed to have been stolen. The principle involved is not like that
>involved in the transfer of lands back to people of Maori descent in New
>Zealand. It does not invoke aboriginal rights to the soil. It is the
>conception – perhaps sound, and universally valid – that estates should ad
>co-operatives of actual residents. It might be applied to housing estates,
>or "schemes" as we call them here. However, such groups, as things stand,
>do not have ultimate ownership of the land.
>AG : But surely, in the worldview prevalent in the West since the 17th
>century, property is deemed to be sacrosanct. Those who have paid for the
>island of Eigg, own it. If they don’t who does? ...
>AC : We all do.
>AG : Sir, I perceive that you are intoxicated.
>AC: Nothing stronger than mango juice has passed my lips this day. What I
>say is true. Just one mortifying shadow falls over my glee at this
>discovery. The English, the Welsh and the Northern (although not the
>Southern) Irish also own the whole of Scotland.
>AG : Pursue this point if you must, but I fear that you will confound
>AC: You are aware, of course, that alone in Europe Scotland still has a
>feudal system of landownership?
>AG : Yes, and lawyers and civil servants have been struggling for several
>decades to invent a sound scheme for getting rid of it. We understand that
>a major obstacle has been that Scottish land law is so intricate and
>outlandish (please forgive my childish wordplay) that the Westminster
>parliament could never have found time to discuss it properly. Thus, though
>Mr Dewar’s group has worked out how to do away with it, and his party will
>probably command a large number of seats in our own new parliament, where
>he promises that land will be a topic for early discussion, feudalism, for
>the moment, survives.
>AC : Perhaps we should retain it.
>AG : If I ever ingest mango juice, it will be with extreme caution. Why
>should we propitiate the evil ghosts of rapacious noblemen who oppressed
>poor men and, to boot, ravished their wives, while they persisted in
>betraying Scotland to the English?
>AC : Because we ourselves possess feudal sovereignty.
>AG : I think that you should hasten to report that to the marines.
>AC : Nay, hearken ... The Queen, you will agree, is nominal sovereign of
>the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ...
>AG : "Ukania", as Tom Nairn has called it, yes ...
>AC : But since the 18th century it has been understood that Ukania is
>governed by the monarch-in-parliament. Effectively, this meant at the
>outset that the monarch’s ministers, led by the prime one, and commanding
>as a rule a majority of votes in the House of Commons, shared out among
>their friends and other persons who might be useful to them, including
>Members of Parliament, moneys acquired by direct and indirect taxation of
>the gentry and populace. To justify this larceny they maintained armies and
>navies which could sally forth and loot the rest of the world, while
>extending scope for Ukanian merchants and manufacturers and so, as they
>could argue, increasing the nation’s general wealth. During the 19th
>century, the fraudulence involved in all this was made less blatant. A
>civil service emerged which was presumed to be wholly incorruptible. The
>army and navy were only allowed to steal the property of non-white peoples.
>Some governments in the 20th century have actually used the tribute
>rendered by taxpayers to improve the comfort and prospects of the
>generality as, for instance, in the creation of a National Health Service
>AG : You wander off your point ...
>AC : Not so. My point is that in our own times the notion that we, folk at
>large, have our interests genuinely represented by a parliament which is in
>effect sovereign throughout Ukania has, intermittently at least, ceased to
>be fictional. In a democracy, the interests of the people are expressed
>through representatives who govern on their behalf. Do you deny that we
>live in a democracy?
>AG : That is debatable, but most folk seem to think so. Pursue your point.
>AC : It follows that under Scottish feudal land law the Ukanian electorate
>have ultimate sovereignty over all the straths, braes, landfill sites,
>council schemes, football sta et cetera , of our bonny country. Whether
>tenure is by feuing or allodial, whether land is held by "box tenure" as in
>Paisley or by a "kindly tenant" in Lochmaben or under old Norse "udal"
>custom as in the Northern Isles, all of us, voting regalia – the Crown’s
>sovereign and inalienable rights.
>AG : But if we were to create a Scottish republic ...?
>AC : That "state", if we must use a term which many, not without reason,
>find sinister, would take over sovereign feudal ownership of the whole of
>AG : Are you suggesting that our new parliament – assuming, as Mr Dewar
>clearly does, that sovereignty in this sphere of interest is devolved from
>Westminster – might assert its feudal superiority over tenement flats in
>Partick and modest villas in Broughty Ferry? Might it, for instance, compel
>all tenants to acquire digital TV at once, on pain of eviction?
>AC : No – that would clearly be tyrannous, though such a consideration
>would not necessarily deter the present Ukanian Prime Minister’s very good
>friend, Mr Rupert Murdoch. Sovereign though we are, we must legislate when
>needful to restrain the exercise of our own power. Law needs must safeguard
>honest tenants against cruel and arbitrary treatment by our sub-landlords,
>just as it might prevent the inhabitants of Knoydart, were they to wrest
>immediate control of their 17,000 acres from an English businessman
>currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, from turning the
>whole area into a Highland theme park or using every tract of water for
>insanitary fish farming.
>AG : Mr Dewar himself clearly believes that our parliament will be within
>its rights to dispossess absentee and otherwise delinquent landlords.
>AC : Yes. A very wise man once pointed out to me that if one had an idea
>which was wholly original it would certainly be wrong. So I am happy to
>think that Mr Dewar might agree, in effect, that the principle of common
>sovereignty over land, if we can preserve it from the devastation of the
>rest of our feudal system, would permit our parliament to act decisively,
>without particular legislation, overriding unsatisfactory landlords.
>"According to our power yew are oot , Jimmy" ... – a formula as brief as
>that might suffice.
>AG : But is that not the language of Leviathan , erstwhile assimilated by
>some sincere Christian folk with the voice of Antichrist himself?
>AC : Up to a point one must go along with Hobbes. Consider these facts.
>Half of Scotland’s 19 million acres are held by 608 landowners, three acres
>out of ten by 135, one fifth by 58, and a tenth by just 18. If one takes
>out of account the 12 per cent of Scotland which is owned by public bodies
>such as the Forestry Commission and the 3 per cent covered by our major
>cities, one half of the privately owned rural land in Scotland is
>controlled by less than 350 owners, and over a third by less than 125
>owners, each with more than 20,000 acres. Mr Robin CalHow Scot (Canongate,
>1998), I have plagiarised these statistics, notes that at the end of
>Victoria’s reign, in that classic era of English country house culture,
>less than 7 per cent of England was held in estates of more than 20,000
>acres. "It appears that no other country in the world can match the
>concentrated land ownership in Scotland". Good old Hobbes would surely have
>pointed out that it takes some brute of a leviathan to sort our six-score
>monsters out.
>AG : You do not consider the suggestion, long advanced by the Old Labour
>Party, that all land should be nationalised.
>AC : Of course I don’t. You obstinately ignore my point. We, as voters of
>the nation state of Ukania, own all of Scotland already, jointly with most
>of the other occupants of the North West European Archipelago.
>A G : So a large question might be this – can we restrict sovereignty over
>Scotland to the people who live and vote here?
>AC : Subject to European Union law, if we secured a sufficient measure of
>independence within or outwith Ukania, yes, presumably we could do that.
>AG : But might not our continental partners take it amiss if we exercised
>our sovereign authority to dispossess absentee Teutons and distasteful
>AC : This is a particular instance of a general problem facing our
>parliament. Scotland’s membership, through Ukania, of the European Union
>will necessarily constrain any sovereignty devolved to us. I am pretty
>clear that we have the right to put desolate housing schemes under the
>immediate ownership of their inhabitants and assist them with resources,
>such as dynamite, which will enable them to develop their land as they
>themselves wish. But in other areas, policies will change in ways that we
>ourselves, alone, Sinn Fein, cannot control. For instance, the common
>agricultural policy, a racket operated on behalf of the numerous peasant
>voters of certain European countries, is likely to change because if the
>Community is widened, as it is hoped, to include countries formerly in the
>eastern bloc, inconveniently large numbers of genuinely indigent peasants
>would join our union, costing well-to-do city dwellers far too much. I am
>not clear whether we might or might not be prevented or inhibited from
>imitating an excellent idea of the Movimento Sem Terra of Brazil, as
>reported recently by Mr Richard Ross, formerly a singer with a musical
>ensemble called Deacon Blue, who went there at the request of Christian Aid
>Scotland ...
>AG : You intrigue me. Most people in the wealthy north assume that only
>pale-skinned persons have good ideas.
>AC : Briefly, the MST, in the teeth of opposition from powerful landowners,
>has taken over underdeveloped land and resettled over 150,000 landless
>families in the last 14 years or so. These people enjoy a large measure of
>self-sufficiency in food. By 2002, the MST plans that all its farms will be
>completely "organic". I should like to suggest to MSPs that we should
>legislate to ban non-organic farming in Scotland, phasing it out as swiftly
>as possible. The Wisdom of the Serpent tells me that if we maximise
>production of organically grown crops, we should be able to export them
>advantageously, as many customers in the so-called advanced countries are
>weary of being poisoned by what they eat and fearful about the pollution of
>farmlands. Of course, with our sovereignty at their disposal, our
>representatives might simply order all our tenants to comply forthwith ...
>AG : I think, too, that local authorities should supply allotments where
>folk, in or out of built-up areas, could grow their own vegetables. In most
>large German cities – Berlin included – there are great areas of
>allotments, each with a small summerhouse and toolshed. In Britain, the
>allotment movement has only been actively sponsored by Government during
>the two world wars. Our education system could teach everyone land use as a
>recreation as well as a necessity.
>AC : Yes, and digging and tending our allotments, we would express our
>actual possession of our own land.
>The Scotsman
>Date of  article: 15/2/1999
>Tony Gosling  tony at gaia.org
>Tel +44 (0)117 955 6769
>14 Lancaster Road
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